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Article

Elizabeth A. Stevens and Sharon Vaughn

Adequate reading skills are necessary for college and career readiness and success in the work force, but many students do not have sufficient reading skills. The 2019 National Assessment of Educational Progress demonstrated that fourth- and eighth-grade students had made little to no progress in reading since the previous report in 2017. Elementary level students often receive dedicated English language arts instruction during the day, but this is not always true for secondary level students . One way that educators can support students across the grade levels is by providing evidence-based reading instruction within content areas (i.e., science and social studies instruction). Researchers have investigated ways for teachers to provide high-quality content area reading instruction to support the reading comprehension and content acquisition of students in general education settings. Previous research suggests that paraphrasing and text structure instruction support readers’ identification of key ideas and the integration of those ideas across paragraphs and passages when reading content area texts. These practices align with reading comprehension theory in support of conscious text processing while reading. Teaching readers to generate main ideas during reading may improve the reading outcomes and content acquisition outcomes not only for typical readers but also for struggling readers and those identified for special education. Educators’ implementation of such practices within science and social studies instruction may improve students’ reading performance and content learning across grade levels.

Article

Meenakshi Gajria and Athena Lentini McAlenney

Reading comprehension, or the ability to extract information accurately from reading narrative or content area textbooks, is critical for school success. Many students identified with learning disabilities struggle with comprehending or acquiring knowledge from text despite adequate word-recognition skills. These students experience greater difficulty as they move from elementary to middle school where the focus shifts from “learning to read” to “reading to learn.” Although the group of students with learning disabilities vary with respect to their challenges in reading, some general characteristics of this group include problems identifying central ideas of a text, including its relationship to supporting ideas, differentiating between important and unimportant details, asking questions, drawing inferences, creating a summary, and recalling textual ideas. Typically, these students are passive readers that do not spontaneously employ task appropriate cognitive strategies nor monitor their ongoing understanding of the text, resulting in limited understanding of both narrative and expository texts. An evidence-based approach to comprehension instruction is centered on teaching students the cognitive strategies used by proficient readers. Within the framework of reading comprehension, the goal of cognitive strategies is to teach students to actively engage with the text, to make connections with it and their prior knowledge, so that learning becomes more purposeful, deliberate, and self-regulated. Texts differ in the level of challenge that they present to students. Narrative texts are generally simpler to read as these are based on a temporal sequence of events and have a predictable story structure. In contrast, expository texts, such as social studies and science, can be particularly demanding as there are multiple and complex text structures based on the relationship of ideas about a particular concept or topic. Using principles of explicit instruction, all learners, including students with learning disabilities and English language learners, can be taught cognitive strategies that have been proven effective for increasing reading comprehension. Early research focused on the instruction in a single cognitive strategy to promote reading comprehension such as identifying story grammar elements and story mapping for narrative texts and identifying the main idea, summarizing, and text structure for expository texts. Later researchers embedded a metacognitive component, such as self-monitoring with a specific cognitive strategy, and also developed multicomponent reading packages, such as reciprocal teaching, that integrated the use of several cognitive strategies. Instruction in cognitive and metacognitive strategies is a promising approach for students with learning disabilities to support their independent use of reading comprehension strategies and for promoting academic achievement across content areas and grade levels.

Article

Søren S.E. Bengtsen and Ronald Barnett

The research field of the philosophy of higher education is young, having emerged within the last half-century. However, at this stage four strands, or pillars, of thought may be detected in the core literature, around which the discussions and theorizing efforts cluster. The four pillars are (a) knowledge, (b) truth, (c) critical thinking, and (d) culture. The first pillar, “knowledge,” is concerned with the meaning of academic knowledge as forming a link between the knower and the surrounding world, thus not separating but connecting them. Under the second pillar, “truth,” are inquiries into the epistemic obligations and possibilities to seek and tell the truth universities and academics have in a “post-truth” world. The third pillar, “critical thinking,” addresses the matter as to what understandings of being critical are appropriate to higher education, not least against a background of heightening state interventions and self-interest on the part of students, especially in marketized systems of higher education. The fourth pillar, that of “culture,” is interested in the possibility and ability for academics and universities to intersect and contribute to public debates, events, and initiatives on mediating and solving conflicts between value and belief systems in culturally complex societies. When seen together, the four pillars of the research field constitute the philosophy of higher education resting on four foundational strands of an epistemic, communal, ethical, and cultural heritage and future.

Article

A rich literature on family-professional collaboration with families and caregivers of children and youth with disabilities has developed in the United States. This literature identifies key barriers that impede family-professional relationships including deficit-based perceptions of families and children with disabilities, narrow definitions of “family” that limit the participation of some members such as fathers or grandparents, and historical biases that constrain the participation of culturally and linguistically diverse (CLD) families. Principles for building collaborative relationships with families include honoring the strengths of the family, presuming competence in the child and the family, valuing broad definitions of “family,” and understanding the ecology of family routines and rituals. Practices that help facilitate family-professional relationships are building reciprocal partnerships with various caregivers in the family including fathers as well as extended family members, adopting a posture of cultural reciprocity, using a variety of modes of communication with families, and involving families in all aspects of the special education process such as assessment, planning, prioritizing of skills, and identification of interventions. Pivotal moments in the family’s journey through their child’s schooling, including early intervention and transition to post-school environments, provide opportunities to build and strengthen family-professional relationships. Each of these moments has the potential to involve families in a variety of processes including assessment, planning, and articulating the goals and vision for their child/youth. A focus on strengths, collaborative partnerships, and family agency and voice is at the core of strong family-professional relationships.